I’m back from the OmniTen trip to Arizona with Columbia Sportswear (reluctantly)

Holy mother of Arizona adventure. Here I am, in humid Florida, still reeling from the epic trip that I’m still not sure really happened. I’m sitting here with heaps of GoPro footage, thousands of photos, and a slightly torn wristband that served as my permit for camping near the Havasupai village deep in the Grand Canyon. Did that whole trip really just happen?

Words can’t even begin to describe what I experienced while out traversing canyons, waterfalls, streams, and travertine tunnels with the OmniTen crew and Columbia Sportswear team. Our time together began with a week of industry events revolving around the release of Columbia’s newest innovation, OmniFreeze Zero. We were wined and dined all day and night long at the Hilton and around Sedona as the company worked to woo editors, gear buffs, journalists, and industry professionals. Don’t worry, there will be an entire post dedicated to all the phenomenal meals I gorged myself on during the gear previews. Elk kabobs and cactus margaritas, anyone?

The highlight of the trip was hands-down the three days we spent around Havasu Falls. We began with an early morning hike into the canyon, a hot and heavy 10-mile excursion that left me with blisters in places I didn’t even know my feet could sprout them. We passed through the Havasupai Village, set up camp, and enjoyed our first evening together as a close knit group. The second day was spent jumping off waterfalls, climbing through travertine tunnels, wading through waist-deep streams while carrying our packs over our heads, and cooling off in the unbelievably blue water. The final day saw a 10-mile hike back out to the rim of the canyon, which was brutal. I wouldn’t have survived the final mile, which involves a 2000 foot elevation gain up switchbacks frequented by mule trains, without the cooling glory of my OmniFreeze Zero neck gaiter. Seriously, when they start making those available to the public, get one. 

My grand adventure would have been nothing without the amazing people who made it a truly unforgettable journey. The OmniTen crew started out as complete strangers (aside from creeping on eachother’s social media profiles), but we left Arizona teary-eyed over the prospect of losing eachother’s company. These people are now lifelong friends.

It’s going to take me a few days to process everything that I experienced, put it all down in words, and edit all of the amazing photos I snapped during the trip. Stay tuned for a huge installment of posts chronicling my adventure.

It’s going to be good. 

Follow, like, share, spread the love!

My first foray into ‘Trying Stuff’ – testing out Columbia Sportswear’s newest outdoor gear

When I received my first package from Columbia Sportswear as part of their inaugural OmniTen team, I was immediately overwhelmed by a box full of gear that beckoned me to get outside and put it to good use. All this mountainous gear delivered to my doorstep while I’m stuck in flat Florida? Absolute torture.

Unable to contain my excitement, I immediately jumped into my Powerdrain shoes, a sneaker-style water shoe that promises to keep explorers trudging onward through even the wettest terrain. Unfortunately, the forecast was sunny and clear the day I received my package, so I decided to test out my shoes with a bike ride to Tally Rock Gym.

Having not owned a proper pair of sneakers in years, I was immediately pleased with my Powerdrains. They are extremely comfortable, feel very light, and yet offer great protection and stability. The grip on their sole is impeccable; I initially struggled to get my feet fully into the bike pedal clips because the soles kept catching the little metal arms. Plus, I totally love the easy cinch lace system; makes it super convenient to tighten or loosen.

The true test came when I took my gear out during my climbing excursion to Little River Canyon in Alabama. As soon as we approached a sputtering cliff that leaked water all over the trail during our hike to the climbs, I was in heaven.

The shoes served ideally as boulder field romping sneakers. I’ve grown accustomed to slipping and sliding all over slick rocks and steep dirt inclines in my faulty footwear, but this time I bounded from boulder to boulder without a moment’s hesitation. Perhaps these Powerdrains improve balance too?

I found a small creek in which to splash around and get my gear wet, and learned that Columbia’s hype about the extreme draining power of these shoes is no joke. Even after fully submerging my feet in water, they were instantly drained as soon as they touched dry land. Impressive.

My only qualm? I totally thought they were going to also have some sort of Omni-Dry technology – but they don’t. So as blissful as I was to get my shoes soaking wet and see the water rush out, I then had to let my shoes sit in the sun for an hour to let the materials dry. But you know me, getting my toes dirty while I hung out barefoot for a bit was no biggie.

On the other hand, my Compounder shell jacket passed the waterworks test with flying colors. I stood directly under the small waterfall with my hood up and my zipper zipped – and stayed completely dry. Except for my leggings, which were definitely not waterproof. (Hey Columbia, help a climber lady out and make us some warm, water-proof leggings!)

My lower half was drenched, but my upper half was perfectly dry thanks to the shell. It’s light, easy to shove in a pack when it’s not being worn, and it’s rather comfortable. When the shaded cliff line grew a bit cold with a brisk breeze, the shell provided protection from the chill, but I wouldn’t say it did much to warm me up (but that’s to be expected, it’s a shell for a reason).

* There may or may not be a video of me standing under the waterfall – and I may or may not upload it to YouTube, depending on how many people ask me nicely to make a fool out of myself.

Overall, I have been quite pleased with my Columbia Sportswear gear this far. Aside from a snowboarding jacket that I snagged at a thrift shop for $12, I have never been particularly aware of the brand, nor have I had the budget to allot for the investment of a $300 dry shell – but I am now a woman converted. While I have no doubt that my shoes will quickly be worn until their death, I truly believe that my Compounder shell is an item that will remain in my wardrobe for decades. I guess it costs $300 because it gives you $300 worth of use, wear, tear, and general grooviness.

I most recently received this package from Columbia Sportswear, featuring their Peakfreak trail shoes, which I do believe offer the Omni-Dry technology I was looking for in my Powerdrains. These modified hiking boots were named “Best Trail Shoe” by Outside Magazine, so I’m really looking forward to taking them out for a spin when I head to climb at Red River Gorge in a few weeks.

Stay tuned for the next gear review upon my return!

Follow, like, share, spread the love!

Joining Columbia Sportswear’s inaugural OmniTen crew for a season of epic adventures

After thirty hours of driving across the country, I finally returned to Florida well after nightfall – and immediately pounced on a mysterious package I had received from Columbia Sportswear. On the top of the box, a sticker for “OmniTen” was slapped across the cardboard.

I dug into the box, which held another box, and lifted the lid to discover a quick letter on Columbia Sportswear letterhead. Elated, I devoured the contents of the letter, which informed me that I was selected to join a team of ten influential outdoor adventurers with strong social media presences. Columbia Sportswear invited us to form the inaugural OmniTen crew, which is given early access to new gear – and Columbia will be taking us on epic adventures to put their gear to the test. 

The first adventure? I received a late-night e-mail with a spontaneous invitation to head out to the Chugach Mountains for eight days of all-inclusive heli-skiing in Alaska. WHAT! Since I only recently conquered the bunny slopes, I figured dropping out of a helicopter to shred fresh snow would be better left to seasoned skiers like fellow OmniTen member, and one of my favorite adventure ladies, Gina Bégin. Even though I won’t be heading to Alaska for one last winter trip before spring sets in, I’m beyond excited to see what else Columbia has in store for me.

But back to my package. Check it out:

20120310-235906.jpg

The cleverly designed box contained three compartments with informative flaps describing the treats that were waiting beneath. The first was “The Compounder Shell,” a waterproof and super breathable dry-shell jacket that features Omni-Dry and Omni-Wick EVAP technology to keep both rain and perspiration at bay while I’m out in the wilderness. The middle compartment presented a bright blue “Solar Polar Top,” with featuring Omni-Freeze ICE that is triggered by my hot sweat to drop the fabric’s temperature and create a cooling sensation – SWEET.

Finally, my favorite part of the package. The wonderful folks at Columbia Sportswear sent me a fresh pair of charcoal and blue kicks, which couldn’t have come at a better time as I am currently alternating between too-big hiking boots, and tattered Toms when I adventure outdoors. Now I can ditch the mediocre footwear in favor of my new “Powerdrain Shoes“, hybrid water shoes that look like running sneakers and feature Tech-Lite and Omni-Grip technology.

Words can’t begin to express how excited, surprised, and eager I am about this thrilling new venture. I’m humbled to have been handpicked by Columbia Sportswear to join OmniTen, and am endless thankful for the opportunity to participate. Stay tuned for some seriously epic adventures, my thoughts on Columbia’s new products, and more. 

Twitter fans, be sure to check out our team by using the #OmniTen hashtag.
You can follow as crew members head out on adventures,
read about our experiences with the products, and more. 

Follow, like, share, spread the love!